Rest of India
Martial arts and a demure dance. The green state of Manipur, and Imphal its capital, has all the fine, merged, tints of a water colour. Faiths and traditions and life styles seem to flow into each other with a softedged grace so that it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins.
The so- called Manipur valley is really a plateau about 700 meteres high, watered by rivers threading out of the dark, mist-topped, ranges. Bright green fields stretch all the way to the distant mountains. And the character of the terrain changes from parts resembling the delicate valley of Kangra, north of the plains of Punjab, to that of the flat-sub-mountain lands of Kerala deep in the warm south of India. Like the Nair women of Kerala the women of Manipur are trained in the fierce local Martial art known as Thang-ta. Both the men and women are dressed in black and they wield their swords like slicing, flashing, propellers; and when their swords clash, sparks fly. They look like lithe, vicious, felines. And all the while, drums grumble and murmur ominously.
In marked contrast, is the delicate, marionette-like, Manipuri dance. The choreographers of this very feminine dance must ensure that the faces of the women are veiled at all times, that there is no gesture or eye-contact between the dancers and their audience, that the movements of the lower part of the body are minimal, that the bottom half of the costumes are heavy and concealing, and that the mudra gestures and movements merely suggest the relationship between the dancers and their Divine Master, Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna in his manifestation as Govindji is the presiding deity in the revered Sri Govindji Temple with its twin golden domes. The principal deity here is carved out of a jackfruit tree in response to a dream which Rajarshi Bhagyachandra had in the 18th century. Older forms of worship, however, continue to exist in the veneration of forest deities known as Umang Lais. They are represented as metal masks, similar to the deities of other Himalayan people such as the Himachalis of Kulu. Thus Imphal gives a fascinating insight into an archetypal Indian trend: multiple ethno - cultural streams merging into patterns like a gently blended water-colour.
Imphal, the capital of the easternmost state of Manipur, is the centre of all cultural, commercial and political activities. Manipur, popularly known as the "land of jewels" splits up naturally into two parts - the hills and the plains. The inhabitants of these two divisions have their own distinctive dialects, customs and tribal costumes.
Though small in area, Manipur is rich in its culture, traditions, festivals, dances, handlooms and handicrafts
PLACES OF INTREST :
SHRI GOVINDAJEE TEMPLE : This temple, adjoining the palace of the formar rulers of Manipur, is a historic centre for Vaishnavites.
KHWAIRAMBAND BAZAR : The market is very special because all the stall-holders are women.
MANIPUR STATE MUSEUM : This interesting museum near the polo grounds has a fairly good display of Manipur's tribal heritage and a collection of portraits of Manipur's former rulers.
THE OLD PALACE : In the heart of the town, and in grounds now occupied by the para-military forces for their training, there are interesting ruins of an old fortress wall and a palace. The sentry at the gate stops vehicles but visitors are permitted to enter once the guard is assured that they have come to see the ruins.
WAR CEMETERIES : The British and Indian Army Cemeteries commemorating those who died in the 2nd World War are serene and well-maintained with little stone markers and bronze plaques recording their anguish and sacrifice.
MANIPUR ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN : About 6 kms off Imphal, towards the west, is this zoological garden at Iroishemba on the Imphal-Kangchup road.
KHONGHAMPAT ORCHIDARIUM : The Orchid Yard of the Forest Department, on National Highway No.39, about 7 kms from Imphal, is another place of interest. Peak season is April-May.
SAHEED MINAR : The Minar at Bir Tikendrajit Park in the heart of Imphal commemorates the indomitable spirit of Manipur martyrs who sacrificed their lives while fighting against the British in 1891.
LANGTHABAND : 8 km down the Indo-Burma road lies this small hill feature with the relics of an old historic palace.
BISHNUPUR (27 KM.) : The single-celled, conical roofed temple of Bishnu.
PHUBALA (40 KM): To the south of Imphal on the western fringes of Loktak Lake lies this charming resort.
MOIRANG (45 KM.) : From Imphal to the south, is one of the ancient villages of Manipur contributing mush to her culture. Traditional " Moirang Lai Haraoba " is celebrated sometime in the month of May every year from the olden days. During the festival, men and women in hundreds dance and sing in honour of Thangjing. On the time of Second World War Moirang was the H. Q. of the Azad Hind Fouz where Netaji hoisted for the first time the flag of I. N. A. on the Indian soil. Moirang offers I.N.A. memorialwith the Statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
LOKTAK LAKE (45 KM.) : The largest fresh water lake in the North-Eastern India.Its vast expanse of water with both resident & migratory birds offers scope for shooting, fishing and boating. The importance of Loktak Lake is the little Islands Thanga and Karang in the centre of the lake, labyrinth of boat routes amidst the floating marshes.
SENDRA (48 KM.) : An islet in the middle of Loktak Lake is a view point overlooking the lake and its surroundings. A telescope is to be installed here to watch the animals in their natural habits in Keibul Lamjao National Park.
KEIBUL LAMJAO NATIONAL PARK (53 KM.) : Inside the famous Loktak Lake, the only floating National Park of its kind in India. It is the natural habitat of the rare Browentelered deer found nowhere else.
CHURACHANDPUR (59 KM.) : District H. Q. of Manipur south and an advanced tribal ( Kuki ) town where local hanicrafts are available in the market.
KANGCHUP (16 KM) : At an altitude of 921 metres from Imphal in the west is a health resort on the hills over-looking Manipur valley. It is also a mountain pass on the road to Tamenglong
KOUBRU HILL (50 KM.) : 8404 feet high Koubru Hill is a pilgrim centre.
MAO (106 KM.) : 1757 metres high Mao is a hill station half-way between Dimapur and Imphal on N.H.no. 39. The place is rich in Mao Naga culture.
UKHRUL (83 KM) : To the east of Imphal,the district H.Q. of Manipur East is the highest hill station of Manipur
KAINA (29 KM.) : A beautiful hillock, can be reached by bus via Thoubal
WAITHOU LAKE (16 KM): On Indo-Burma road by the side of the lake is a picturesque village fam- ous for its pineapples.
KHONGJOM (36 KM.) : On Indo-Burma road it is a place of great historic importance. Here Major Genrl. Paona Brajabashi one of the great warriors of Manipur, proved his valour against the invading British Army in 1891. The hillock at the foot of which he laid down his life in defence of his motherland. A war memorial on the top of this hill feature adds charm to this historic site. Khongjom Day is celebrated as a state function every year on April 23.
TENGNOUPAL (69 KM): Highest point of the Imphal-Burma road and from here one can have a full view of the valley of Manipur. MOREH (110 KM.) : The border town of India on the Indo-Burma road.